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Literature / Kraken: Atrapados en el abismo

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The truth is down there.
Kraken: Atrapados en el abismo is a 2005 thriller novel by Spanish author Luis Miguel Ariza. It was his second work after La Sombra del Chamán.

NASA microbiologist and troubled single mother Nora Pulaski is about to fulfill her dream: to be part of the scientific staff of the Mars Eternity, a probe being sent to Mars to pierce through its surface. However, weeks before the launch of the ship, she is suddenly removed from the project with no explanation. Pulaski finds out this decision is related to her disappeared uncle, legendary Mars expert Robert Pulaski, who also left the NASA in shady circumstances.

At the same time, Spanish sea ecologist Juan Cepesma struggles in a legal battle against petrol corporation Texon, whose sinister chairman Calvin Steiffel is bent on performing tests on the Cantabrian Sea. Cepesma is then approached by eccentric American scientist Alastair Golombek, who must find proofs of the existence of a giant squid species greater than the famous Architeuthis.

Soon, the two stories tangle with each other, and Pulaski, Cepesma and their allies will find themselves working under pressure... very literally speaking.

Not to be confused with the 2010 novel Kraken.

This work contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The mysterious men who stole the Richardson report and tried to kidnap Nora and Nadie are later revealed to work for Arkos Siffnet, a rival corporation, but the latter never appears again in the novel.
  • Affably Evil: Chakenko. Although he is impeccably polite and friendly, he is in the loop with Steiffel's plans and actually once thinks on getting his hands on the teenaged Nadia to use her as a prostitute.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • Are the squids acting on their own, or is the magnetic Hate Plague also affecting them?
    • At the end of the story, who sabotaged the Mars drill and why are still Left Hanging, with only a vague set of implications. Was it Robert, in order to avoid more contamination? Chakenko, in order to get Nora kicked out and have something to negotiatie with her? Nora's petty new boss at the NASA, in order to have her sent away due to his suspicions of her Soviet past?
  • Artistic License History: Golombek recalls the 1941 Britannia raft incident, a supposedly documented incident of a huge squid killing a man in real life, where a sailor in a raft was dragged into the abyss by a 23 ft long squid, later tried to do the same with another man from the raft before being fought off. However, he mixes it up with another, unrelated folkloric tale about a group of survivors in a raft that were killed all but one by a giant squid (which might have even arisen as an embellished version of the Britannia attack itself).
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Chakenko delivers one to Nora.
    I know very few people who can boast of having left their past behind. Are you one of them, Dr. Pulaski?
  • Big Bad: Calvin Steiffel, CEO of Texon.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Madre 5 ROV comes in time to save the Atlantis from the squids, which swim away in fear of it. (Why they later return to attack the Beebe, which is much greater in size than Madre 5, is another question.)
  • Bittersweet Ending: Edging the Downer Ending all the way. Golombek and Albee are dead and their work was All for Nothing, with only pieces of it reaching the Smithsonian; Robert also dies without reconciling with Nora, and the latter doesn't get back her place in the Mars Eternity mission; and the powerful Steiffel is still hoping to claim his dangerous booty. The positive side is that at least Nora, Nadie and Cepesma are alive and with some money, and Luarca is left free from local oil spills.
  • Giant Squid: Of course. The book features scientists searching for the legendary giant squid, and they go to find a species much more intelligent and dangerous than they had expected.
  • Hate Plague: Nora discovers the magnetite mixed with the oil esentially drives people nuts, explaining the situation in the Merlin and Morales' erratic personality.
  • It Can Think: The squids perform coordinated baiting and harassing behavior, have their own language, and it is later shown that they can recognize communicative intelligence in other lifeforms.
  • Large and in Charge: Steiffel, who is the chairman of Texon and a big guy. Also counts as Evil Is Bigger.
  • Mega-Corp: Texon, described in the text as the biggest private oil company in the world.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The management of the Ocean Shuttle is nothing short of disastrous and ends up contributing to the failure of the mission. Not only they prioritized other stuff over installing an independent breathing system, thus making the shuttle dangerously dependent of the Merlin above, but also left the SAM ADS explicitly unable to be used to escape.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Cepesma" is not a real Spanish surname, but the name of a real life sea ecologist organization based on Cantabria. The character of Juan Cepesma is partially based on its director Luis Laria, also known for being an occasional guest in the science section of Cuarto Milenio.
    • One of the dead submariners is an Italian named Torcelli. In real life, the Torricelli (later known as General Sanjurjo) was a submarine during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Played with. The best way to describe the squids' behavior is that they act according to what the script needs every time: they attack subs and divers apparently at random, sometimes to doggedly try to destroy them, sometimes only to withdraw in fear of smaller threats or for no apparent reason at all (and the explanation given, that they are attracted by oil, doesn't clearly jive with this).
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Space Shuttle is informed multiple times to be around 25 meters long. In reality, the shuttle should be at least twice that length in order for the novel's events to work, not only because its inner chambers are described to have pits of a depth greater than that number, but also because the given size would make it only barely bigger than one of the squids, and there would be no reason why the squid pod cannot grab the entire station and push it down to the abyss.